The Song That Makes Me Cry

The Strange Death Of Liberal England MySpace page — listen to A Day Another Day

Arturo Bandini now has an anthem.

And it makes me cry.

The Los Angeles Public Library, on West 5th Street, became a sanctuary for Bukowski when he was downtown looking for a job — a grand, richly ornamented building with all the books he might want to read. There were even girls to peek at. He went as often as possible, hoping to find something which expressed how he felt as an unhappy and restless young man. Then one day he discovered a book that became so significant in his life he likened finding it to discovering ‘gold in the city dump’.John Fante’s novel, Ask the Dust, is written in a strikingly spare and lucid style with short paragraphs and short chapters, but it was the subject matter that was, at least initially, more interesting to Bukowski. The hero, Arturo Bandini, is a twenty-year-old would-be writer, the son of immigrant parents, who feels cut off from society. He wants to write about life and love, but has little experience of either so he goes to live in a flophouse at a place called Bunker Hill where he meets and falls in love with a beautiful girl.Bukowski was enthralled by the story — seeing himself in Arturo Bandini — and incredibly excited by the fact that Bunker Hill was a real place, a shabby district of rooming houses directly across the street from the library where he sat with the book in his hands.

The specific place Fante romanticized in Ask the Dust was Bunker Hill, but more generally he wrote about downtown Los Angeles which was very different to the drowsy LA suburbs where Bukowski had grown up. Downtown bustled with garment makers, jewellers, street vendors, paper boys, cops, prostitutes, thieves and hawkers, all busy with some mysterious and important task. There were ethnic restaurants with crashing kitchens; back alleys where stock boys shared cigarettes; seedy bars; hotels both grand, like the Biltmore, and dives where the hookers worked. The funicular railway, Angel’s Flight, climbed Bunker Hill and then racketed down again, spilling him across the street into Grand Central Market.

When he had a few dollars, Bukowski drank in the local bars and imagined himself part of Fante’s world, inspired to try and become a writer himself. ‘Fante was my god,’ he later wrote, describing the intoxicating effect of Ask the Dust. ‘He was to be a lifelong influence on my writing.’
— Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life – the biography by Howard Sounes; pgs. 18-19


Yes, Fante had a mighty effect upon me. Not long after reading these books I began living with a woman. She was a worse drunk than I was and we had some violent arguments, and often I would scream at her, “Don’t call me a son of a bitch! I am Bandini, Arturo Bandini!”
— Preface by Charles Bukowski to Ask the Dust by John Fante

A huge thank you to Warren Ellis.

John Fante wikipedia entry
Charles Bukowski wikipedia entry
Who was John Fante? Salon article
John Fante… Hemingway by the Bay
A Sad Flower In The Sand PBS Independent Lens

The Strange Death Of Liberal England band blog

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